Given that this is the first video game review I have done for the Journal, I should begin with a point of clarification. I play on an Xbox One. I do not play on PC or PS4, so assume any discussion of performance reflects only the game’s performance on the Xbox One console.
Wasteland 3 is, as one would expect, the third entry in the Wasteland franchise. The Wasteland series is old and borders on ancient by video game standards, with the first game having been published in 1998. Incidentally, the first Wasteland provided the inspiration for the acclaimed post-apocalyptic gaming franchise, Fallout. The series was revived in 2014 by InXile Entertainment, a studio created by the director of the original Wasteland, with funding from a Kickstarter campaign. The studio was then acquired by Xbox Game Studios, then Microsoft Studios, in 2018.
I include this little history lesson because it is important to place Wasteland 3 in the proper context. Wasteland 3 maintains strong ties to its roots, harkening back to the old days of the role-playing game (RPG). That means a top-down viewpoint, turn-based combat and a heavy emphasis on the story. Wasteland 2 called back to this era to an even greater degree but – as is common when a series is revived through funding from the fans – brought back the failings of the late-’90s as well as the successes. This meant a whole lot of “old school” clunk and a game that ran like a marathon, with 100-hour playthroughs being the average. In contrast, Wasteland 3 has been slimmed down and modernized, as is common when small independent studios are acquired by divisions of large corporations. However, it still retains its charm, which is not so common when small studios are gobbled up by large corporations.
When I talk about late-’90s charm, this shines through best in the story. Within the first ten minutes, you come into conflict with blood-crazed hillbillies on an ice lake before being brought to a dictator who wields a hammer wrapped in the American flag. This dictator then sends you on a mission to corral his crazy sons and his daughter, who is apparently too dictatorial for the dictator. These missions take you across the nuclear winter of post-apocalyptic Colorado and along the way you’ll encounter a morbidly obese Dracula impersonator leading a defeated army inspired by ‘80s horror movies; a cult that worships Ronald Reagan with a statue of the Gipper himself (outfitted with atomic laser eyes); and a drug-fueled horde among other interesting groups. There is a lot of dialogue here, and as with any top-down, turn-based RPG, combat is about strategy over enthusiasm. You will die, a lot.
The only real complaint is the performance on console. This game glitched and crashed a lot, but that is likely to improve with later patches.
All in all, 4 out of 5.
A great merger between the old school and the new age.